Don't Break the Plane

September 05 2022
By: Shawn M. Galloway

In American football, a touchdown occurs when the ball carried by the player crosses the imaginary plane extending upward from the goal line. This imaginary plane concept has been leveraged in many organizations to help prevent injuries.

Not all equipment can be guarded, or risk completely controlled in many industrial environments. Precautions are then identified and, depending on how mature the culture is, are shared and reinforced as group expectations.

Don't Break the PlaneAt a mining operation with an almost mile-long conveyer belt that wasn't entirely guarded, a "risk we never take" is to break the plane extending upward from the sides of the conveyer belt. Everyone at the location knew this and watched out for each other. Shortly after another organization purchased the mining operation, the executive in charge provided a tour to the new owners. An hourly employee cleaning the area nearby observed the executive speaking with his hands and began to break the plane with his hand gestures repeatedly. The employee approached the executive, not knowing who they were, and said, "Excuse me, sir, you are breaking the plane with your hands, and you can't do that. You could get hurt. Will you please step back?"

The executive profusely thanked the employee, told him he did the right thing, and then later that day shared the experience with local management, reminding them that the employee did the right thing, "Please thank him again for me."

This exemplifies extreme ownership and dedication to safety excellence within a culture. The employee did the right thing. So did the executive. Imagine a similar scenario occurring in your work environment. How would your employee respond? How would your executive?

"One of the truest tests of integrity is its blunt refusal to be compromised." — Chinua Achebe

"Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." — Winston Churchill

"When values are shared, little supervision is needed." — Shawn M. Galloway






Shawn M. Galloway

Shawn M. Galloway is CEO of the global consultancy ProAct Safety. He is a trusted advisor, professional keynote speaker, and author of several bestselling books on safety strategy, culture, leadership, and behavior-based safety. He is a monthly columnist for several magazines and one of the most prolific contributors in the industry, having also authored over 700 podcasts, 200 articles, and 100 videos. Shawn has received awards and recognition for his significant contributions from the American Society of Safety Professionals, National Safety Council's Top 40 Rising Stars and Top Ten Speakers, EHS Today Magazine's 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS, ISHN Magazine's POWER 101 - Leaders of the EHS World and their newest list: 50 Leaders for Today and Tomorrow, Pro-Sapien's list of The Top 11 Health and Safety Influencers and is an Avetta Distinguished Fellow.